The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown
– H.P. Lovecraft 1
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear fear is a common quote from childhood coaches, “Fear is weakness leaving the body,” or those No Fear t-shirts, publicly displaying your level of badassery.
Ultimately, the medical definition of the term fear is the unpleasant emotional state consisting of psychological and psychophysiological responses to a real external threat or danger.2 Fear is the natural human instinct wired in our brains to generally help us survive. Though the progress humans have made, especially in recent years, offers us luxuries in life for which we no longer need to fear.
Regardless, of our inability to control these emotions, more often than not, ends with us surrendering to them. Thinking fear is here to protect us we insist on ignoring the possibility that it may be irrational.
I’m not trying to discredit fear completely, but wish to establish a basis for whether dismissing some may benefit, or better yet, serve a purpose and make us stronger.
While traveling abroad, I’m forced to confront my fear of the unknown. Through conquering my fears though I encounter a notable change in how I perceive life. Overall, I attribute most of my inspiring experiences with having the strength to overcome my fear of the unknown.
Embrace the unknown
To start, in February I had a nervous breakdown packing for my trip. After years of planning and remembering my excitement levels reaching extraordinary heights I was still left in near tears once the time arrived. Looking at an empty room and a floor full of clothes I couldn’t help but worry. The tickets were booked, the journey was beginning, yet I sat there with many questions still unanswered. What was I leaving behind? Financially, will I survive abroad and when I return? What can I expect out there?
After a moment, my mood had diminished. I began to acknowledge that, soon enough, I will be abroad in an unknown territory. I was losing myself. My passion to remain in control was fleeting. I had no choice but to change my lifestyle and become, in a sense, more reactive. Embracing the inevitability settled me as I set off on my journey with an open mind.
Alter your thought process to overcome obstacles
After submitting to my inhibitions to control the situation I came upon an odd feeling of liberation. I had bound myself to regularly dive into the unknown by traveling to the various destinations. I devised a plan that would alter how I thought. At least enough to overcome my fear a little more.
I ventured to not coordinate any future destinations without consulting friends at my current location. Trusting in people and their recommendations, I was able to see areas I had no intentions of visiting. Looking back, almost all the places I’ve stayed weren’t on my original list. Another major component that helped set me at ease was the technology of today. My trip would have been more difficult if it weren’t for the major applications Facebook Groups, Messenger, Google Maps (offline), and Google Translate (offline).
Take one step at a time
Though the fear still resides within me I now ignore it and embrace what’s coming next. There have been several times where nearly everything has gone wrong. Instead of worrying I act on one problem at a time.
Unbeknownst to me, some random event occurs and typically gets me to my next step. When I’m present and release control, I think to myself, “Now may suck but eventually this will pass. Time is on my side, what follows will be great”.
Taking that first step gets you closer to where you need to go. We may think in leaps and bounds but we can only act one step at a time. Your fear is in the leap. Ignoring the leap and looking down you have a smaller chance of falling.
A great book I read, was by Seth Godin, Poke the Box. The book dives into conquering the fears of starting a business but can be understood on a much larger scale.
Finally, I want to leave a quote that resonates with me:
Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere 3